Does Caregiver Stress Influence the Move to Long-Term Care?

Caregiving is no easy task and for the majority of family caregivers, they are often thrown into this role without much warning. Although caregivers are often selfless, it’s hard to manage stress levels — especially when a loved one is suffering from a degenerative condition. Can you relate to this scenario?

Sometimes, regardless of how hard we try, we are not equipped to deal with certain circumstances. Whether there’s a lack of education, experience, or even funding, many individuals in need of care do not receive the type of help they require. In 2012, for example, 2.2 million Canadians were provided some level of care due to a long-term health condition or disability.

Based on this population in need, it’s estimated that approximately 15 percent did not receive the type of care they required. Of these individuals, seniors were more likely to experience unmet needs, even though they were more likely to receive home care. For those of you who care for a loved one, you know it’s easier said than done.

When looking at the figures, it’s easy to judge — but what effect does caregiver stress truly have on both the level of care an individual receives; and what is the impact in terms of needing to move to long-term care? It is the wide belief that caregiver stress will often lead to elderly individuals being admitted to long-term care facilities.

Is this true?

According to new research, it does not appear to be the deciding factor.

The Link Between Caregiver Stress and the to Long-Term Care

Caregiving is often viewed as a labour of love, but no matter which way you slice, caregiving is not an easy task. This role will test you physically, mentally, emotionally, and even socially. The effects of caregiving are well understood — increased levels of stress can lead to burnout, as caregivers’ physical and psychological health are impacted.

When a caregiver’s health begins to diminish, they often come to the realization that they can no longer provide the best possible support for their loved one. After all, if someone is becoming ill themselves, how can they care for someone in need? Based on this key factor, many hold the belief that caregiver stress is the deciding factor when moving an individual to a long-term care facility.

Within a recent review, which included 54 studies and nearly 92,000 participants, it appears that this is not the case. Focusing on those who were 65 years and older with chronic needs, being cared for by an informal caregiver (generally a family member), various aspects of caregiver stress were then examined.

These aspects included factors such as anxiety, strain, burden, burnout, depression, and distress. What researchers found was that caregiver stress actually had little impact when people were admitted to long-term care. There’s no doubt that caregiver stress is a factor, however, it does not appear to be the deciding factor.

Instead, it appears as though individuals were more likely to make the move to long-term care when they suffered from severe impairments — either functional or cognitive; were living with multiple conditions; were taking a wide variety of medications; or had previously spent time in a care facility or hospital.

Of course, these results vary depending on where people live, the professional assessments they have received, and other influential criteria. At the end of the day, caregiver stress is something which millions experience on a daily basis and in order to minimize burden, more adequate training, emotional support, and overall assistance is required.

If you are someone who is currently struggling to care for a loved one, the last thing you want to do is suffer in silence. You do not need to do it alone — talk to family members, friends, and support groups to share information. Consider a formal caregiving service 1-2 times weekly to give yourself a chance to rest and feel more fulfilled.

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